Windows Intune Availability Set for March 23

Windows Intune, Microsoft's cloud-based systems management tool for midsize companies' IT departments or managed services providers, will be formally launched at the Microsoft Management Summit in Las Vegas on March 23, according to a Microsoft blog post Monday.

The launch will mean commercial availability in 36 countries and availability of a 30-day trial version, Gavriella Schuster wrote on the Windows for your Business Blog.

Windows Intune is a cloud-based version of the desktop management capabilities customers could previously get by deploying technologies such as the desktop malware protection and reporting of Microsoft Forefront Protection Suite and the update management and hardware/software/licensing inventory capabilities of Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager 2007 or Microsoft System Center Essentials.

With Windows Intune, administrators load a client onto the desktops and use a browser to access the management software and tools in the cloud for managing and securing the desktops.

Microsoft officials have said the tool will cost $11 per user per month, a price that includes Windows 7 Enterprise upgrade rights for as long as the subscription lasts. Windows Intune also manages Windows XP Professional and the Enterprise, Ultimate and Business versions of Windows Vista. Volume discounts will be available for implementations of 250 seats or more, and customers with Software Assurance will also get discounts.

A $1 per month upgrade provides access to the Microsoft Desktop Optimization Pack, which is normally reserved for Software Assurance customers. MDOP includes the Microsoft Diagnostics and Recovery Toolset, Advanced Group Policy Management, Application Virtualization, Enterprise Desktop Virtualization and System Center Desktop Error Monitoring.

The March 23 trial version will mark the first opportunity for many users and partners to get their hands on the product -- the two betas in 2010 were limited affairs. The Beta 1 release in April saw its 1,000 slots oversubscribed within 24 hours, while the Beta 2 release in July had all of its 10,000 openings taken by September.

Microsoft evolved Windows Intune to encompass partner requirements over the two betas. When the first beta arrived, Microsoft described it almost exclusively as a midmarket IT-focused offering. The Beta 2 release came with an expanded focus on MSPs, most specifically in a Multi-Account Console, which allowed an MSP to view data on all customers from one screen.

As Microsoft has begun building cloud computing programs for its partners over the last few months, Microsoft has left prominent placeholders for Windows Intune in the programs. For example, partners who sign up for the free Cloud Essentials Pack are promised rights to use Windows Intune to manage 10 devices internally when it becomes available, along with internal-use rights for currently available products such as 250 seats of the Business Productivity Online Suite, 250 seats of Microsoft Dynamics CRM Online and compute, storage and transaction resources for Windows Azure.

In July, Microsoft officials said they planned to use a partner-of-record arrangement to reimburse partners for Windows Intune deals that was similar to the way BPOS partners are reimbursed. Microsoft will bill customers directly and pay the partner 12 percent of the first year's subscription fees for each new customer and 6 percent of subscription fees for subsequent years. Because of the way Microsoft accounts for the payments, they amount to 18 percent in the first year and 6 percent in subsequent years.

Windows Intune will be commercially available in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Costa Rica, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Hungary, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Romania, Singapore, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Trinidad and Tobago, the United Kingdom and the United States.

The second beta will expire on April 18.

About the Author

Scott Bekker is editor in chief of Redmond Channel Partner magazine.